Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is sticking to his starkly pro-Trump political stance, no matter the suffering in the U.S. that he could help mitigate if he let go of the Trump team’s self-centered, self-congratulations even for a moment. This weekend during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mnuchin insisted that the U.S. economy will essentially snap right back to its previous high levels of employment and growth after the pandemic, but the evidence tells a starkly different story, no matter the potential pro-Trump political boost of Mnuchin’s claims. The tens of millions of people who’ve lost their jobs in recent weeks won’t all suddenly get them back. Many businesses aren’t even reopening due to the economic stress of the Coronavirus-induced social distancing demands.
Asked if the U.S. was facing unemployment levels on par with those seen during the Great Depression era, Mnuchin commented:
‘Unlike the Great Depression where you had economic issues that led to this, we closed down the economy. It wouldn’t be a surprise if when you close down the economy, half of the workforce didn’t work. We’re very focused on rebuilding this economy. That’s why we’re focused on rebuilding this economy. We’ll have a better third quarter, we’ll have a better fourth quarter and next year is going to be a great year.’
In reality, host Chris Wallace pointed out analysts have noted that unemployment — which has already passed the level seen at the peak of the 2008 economic downturn in the U.S. — could stay over 9 percent through at least the end of 2021, which is a year and a half down the line. Quite simply, tens of thousands of new Coronavirus cases have been detected in the United States every single day for over a month and counting, and as long as that persists, there’s not exactly going to be some grand economic snapback where everyone is suddenly working again.
Wallace pressed Mnuchin:
‘You and the president both say that the economy is going to come roaring back… Are your rosy predictions based on economic reality or the November election?’
Mnuchin replied by incredulously insisting that his projections aren’t “rosy” at all. He commented:
‘My numbers aren’t rosy. I’ve said you are going to have a very, very bad second quarter and then I think you are going to see a bounce back.’
His numbers aren’t “rosy”? Mnuchin is projecting that the over 30 million people who’ve lost their jobs over recent weeks will essentially all get them back as quickly as he can snap his fingers. That’s just not going to happen. One recent report, providing a snapshot of the situation in city after city across the U.S., indicated that half of restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area may never reopen after closing amidst Coronavirus-induced social distancing demands.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has noted how getting the economy going again won’t be like flipping a switch. Millions of people need real assistance, not the vague platitudes from Trump and Mnuchin.
Fauci says it, that it's not a switch we flip on and off. Beyond this we get little in terms of what "reopening" actually means, in terms of a plan, in terms of expectations – the many many many very hard decisions that will have to be made over time, how far away normal may be.
— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) April 13, 2020